March Letter by Arrington Chambliss

Dear Beloved Friends of Life Together,

It has been eight years since Life Together formed in 2008, as a merger between the Relational Evangelism Pilot Project and the Micah Project. So much has happened in these 8 years, so much that I can hardly find the words to begin. One word does come freely, readily, and often, though: gratitude. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. And it is with that grateful heart that I summon the words to write my last newsletter before transitioning to the Episcopal City Mission.

As I sit here, a scene from years ago comes to mind. We’d just finished year two of Life Together, and a group of dreamers - Life Together’s two staff, a team of fellows, and Leadership Team  members - sought refreshment and inspiration at the sunny monastic retreat center at Emery House. We spent most of the morning in prayer and quiet reflection, sounding our hearts: "what is God's hope for common work together?"

After we shared our grand visions, Br. Curtis Almquist, a SSJE monk and dear friend of our community, met with us. He greeted us with his signature kindness and reflected to us God's love with his encouragement. And then he showed us something that upended us.

He said, “You all are doing so much important work, and imagine it like this” - and he held up his hands, with a rubber band stretched between them.

“What I wonder,” he said, “is how to turn it like this.” And he turned his hands 180 degrees, so that the rubber band was still stretched, but now his hands were parallel to the ground.

We saw in this simple demonstration a profound invitation to move from breadth to depth. That gentle gesture impacted the course of our next steps over the coming years. We incorporated into our work schedule a weekly contemplative staff worship. We began shedding what we didn’t need and looking at what fellows were pointing out that we were doing well such as a deeper integration of contemplative, communal and prophetic spiritual practice.

I have learned immensely from Life Together about so many things: about teams, accountability, fund development, the growth of a small organization, and the necessity of community for transformation of lives. But the lesson that comes to me today was the one taught to a small group of us, gathered amongst couches and prayer books, contemplating our calling. On that day of retreat, Brother Curtis didn’t invite us into organizational stretch but rather an organizational ground of being, an awareness, all at once, of God’s love and our human limitation.  

He drew us into the wisdom that we are living into even now of finitude and endings, a wisdom that resonates with the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

With Gratitude and Love,

The Reverend Arrington Chambliss

For eight years, the prayer has been chosen and read aloud by Life Together fellows in our worship service. It is attributed to the Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. 

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Oscar A. Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, in El Salvador, was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived. He had always been close to his people, preached a prophetic gospel, denouncing the injustice in his country and supporting the development of popular and mass organizations. He became the voice of the Salvadoran people when all other channels of expression had been crushed by the repression.

More from our March Newsletter:
Alumna Spotlight: Introducing our Bridge Program Coordinator
First-Year Fellow Reflection: "Opening the Box" by Cara Spinosa
LT Micro-Grant Reflection: "Finding our Ferguson" by Eliza Marth
Fellow in the Pulpit: "Small, strange intrusions" by Mia Benjamin